The Life and Legacy of John Blake

The Life and Legacy of John Blake
2 Nov 1996: Oklahoma Sooners head coach John Blake confers with an official during a game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Nebraska won the game, 73-21.

Former Oklahoma Sooner head coach John Blake has died at the age of 59 suffering from a heart attack while walking. Historic head coach and friend Barry Switzer confirmed this morning. Blake had many contributions to the Oklahoma football program as well as the NFL. Today, we remember the life and legacy of John Blake.

The Life and Legacy of John Blake

A Sooner Through and Through

Blake spent a large part of his professional career as a Sooner. However, before Blake got into coaching he began his playing career at Oklahoma as well. He was a nose guard at Oklahoma from 1979-1982. He was part of the back to back Orange Bowl victories over Florida State in 1980 and 1981.

After a brief stint at the University of Tulsa, Blake joined head coach Gary Gibbs staff at Oklahoma as an assistant coach in 1989 where he coached the defensive line. Then, he went on to coach the linebacker corp from 1990 to 1992. However, after four years Blake moved on to the NFL.

How ’bout them Cowboys?

After Blake’s four year stint as Oklahoma’s defensive position coach, he moved on to a similar title with the Dallas Cowboys. He spent three years as the Cowboys defensive line coach from 1993-1995. In 1994 and 1995 he was reunited with Switzer. In his first year in Dallas, Blake won a world championship. Additionally, he was able to achieve the same thing in his last year with his mentor.

However, his time at Valley Ranch was not without controversy. Blake made claims to Switzer that quarterback Troy Aikman had treated his black teammates differently and was racist. But, many in the organization such as Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Charles Haley, and Deion Sanders came to the aid of Aikman and didn’t concur with Blake’s claims.

The Reign of Terror

In 1995, Oklahoma was in the midst of one of the worst seasons in program history with the one year reign of Howard Schnellenberger. Many believed that Schnellenberger had set the program back multiple years in just his one year. Now, enter Blake in 1996 when Oklahoma wanted to bring back one its own back into the coaching position.

Ultimately, the Blake era was unsuccessful on the field. Blake’s teams went a combined 12-22 in his three years as head coach and Blake was fired after just three years as the Sooners head man. Even though his three years are statistically the worst three year stretch in Sooner football history, there are two positives that can be taken away from his Oklahoma head coaching career.

Red River Shocker

The Sooners had started 0-4 in 1996 for the first time in 35 years heading into the Red River Showdown against Texas. The Longhorns were ranked 25th and was a 22-point favorite against the Sooners. After getting off to a 13-10 lead, the Sooners found themselves in an all too familiar position trailing 24-13. But, Oklahoma received a bit of Sooner Magic on this day to stun the nation with a 30-27 overtime win on a James Allen run.

Championship Credit

Blake’s record as the head coach of Oklahoma speaks for itself in terms of the reason that he was fired. However, he was a solid recruiter and was ultimately responsible for getting some outstanding talent in Norman. He recruited Roy Williams, Rocky Calmus, Seth Littrell, and Trent Smith just to name a few to the Crimson and Cream. At a minimum, Blake deserves the recognition that got some key players to Oklahoma that were critical to the Sooners national championship in 2000.

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